Boy, that karma. It can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. Especially when you slip through a welterweight tournament with a pair of questionable decisions to earn a title shot, and then find yourself on the wrong end of another such decision after going five rounds with the champ. That’s right, I’m talking about Jay Hieron, who at Bellator 56 squared up against the seemingly undefeatable Ben Askren, and after twenty-five minutes of giving as good as he got, got shafted by a split decision. Last night two heavyweight tournament semifinalists punched their tickets to the finals with the kind of severity and violence that left no room for misinterpretation, but ultimately it was all about Askren and Hieron scrapping until the bitter end, and Hieron coming up short. How did Bellator 56 play out?
It’s safe to assume that when this season’s heavyweight tournament was in the planning stages, the powers that be in Bellator laid down an edict about all the competitors being finishers. Because thus far, we’ve been seeing an awful lot of dramatic and sudden finishes. Take, for instance, the semifinal pairing between Eric Prindle and Ron Sparks. In the quarterfinals, Prindle battered his durable foe relentlessly en route to a decision, while Sparks did his best “Hulk smash!” and ended up with the win via knockout. Perhaps afraid he wasn’t living up to his “finishing” obligation, Prindle stepped it up against Sparks at Bellator 56. Throwing two kicks, ducking below two punches, and delivering a crushing left hook, and Prindle had notched a KO of his own, ending Sparks’ tournament run in just forty seconds.
On the other end of the Season Five heavyweight bashfest, Brazilian Thiago Silva kept his “irresistible force” motif going with a dominant performance against UK fight circuit product Neil Grove. Grove, who lost in the quarterfinals to Michael Hayes but got a second chance when Blagoi Ivanov had to bow out due injury, came out blasting with an overhand right. Silva dodged it, set himself, and winged a gigantic right hand of his own. Grove went down, and the follow-up storm of fists by Silva had Grove turning over, defending a rear naked choke, and tapping out at the thirty-eight second mark. It will now be Silva versus Prindle in the finals.
In a featherweight interlude, Jeremy Spoon and Aaron Schindler went at it for three full rounds, with the two transitioning back and forth on the ground like grapplers who’d lost their minds a hundred sweeps and guard passes ago. On the feet Spoon sported a slight edge by virtue of his straighter, tighter punching, which enabled him to bloody his opponent and mark up his face. When time expired, the accumulation of punches earned Spoon the unanimous decision.
Remember how I said Hieron got shafted before? Well, “shafted” may not be totally accurate. For though Hieron was extremely effective in resisting many of the Olympic wrestler’s attempts to get the fight to the canvas, and his striking was superior more often than not, he didn’t exactly make a clear-cut case for taking the king’s crown. In the opening round Askren met with a virtual brick wall when he went for takedowns, but he found success in Round 2, and spent enough time in top position – raining down punches and improving position – to rack up significant points. Askren showed his wrestling superiority again in the fourth, dragging Hieron down and delivering knees to the side of the turtled fighter. Hieron did land a beautiful spinning back-kick that put the champ on his butt in the fifth round, but he did nothing to follow up, and when all was said and done, the split decision that the scorecards held told the story of the bout: it was close, and it could’ve gone either way. Unfortunately for Hieron, that way wasn’t his, and Askren remained the champ.
-Ben Askren def. Jay Hieron via Split Decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47)
-Thiago Silva def. Neil Grove via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at :38 in Round 1
-Eric Prindle def. Ron Sparks via KO (Punches) at :40 in Round 1
-Jeremy Spoon def. Adam Schindler via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)